The Eastern European lifestyle presents quite a few differences from the lifestyle we are accustomed to in North America. They eat a lot healthier than we do, dress a lot nicer and drive cars that would fit in your wife’s walk-in closet. In Belgrade, Serbia the citizens boast a strong sense of pride in their culture, heritage, religion and family. They truly are a nation rife with heart and strong character.
My first year in Belgrade, I lived with another Canadian named Scott Wright in a beautiful old apartment downtown. We had 12-foot ceilings, French doors and were located close to all the hot spots. We were making great money and playing the game we loved for a living. Life couldn’t have been any better.
One of the differences I noticed right away when I first lived in Belgrade was that clothes dryers weren’t common. In fact I never saw one. As nice as our apartment was, we didn’t have a washer either. When it came time to wash our clothes, which we would delay until the last possible moment, we would stuff it all into a sack and heave it over our shoulders and embark on a 30-minute walk to the rink.
While we practiced, Mladin the team trainer, would wash our clothes in the washer at the rink. After practice, we would pile the soaking wet heap of clothes into the sack and then lug it back home to hang up to dry in the apartment. The worst part was that the walk to the rink was all downhill and the walk home was uphill. So we would have the lighter load with the dry, dirty clothes walking downhill to the rink and then the soaked, heavy bag of clothes walking uphill on the way back home.
On laundry day, our apartment took on quite the transformation. Every chair, table, dresser, window shade and pot handle took on the form of a drying rack. We’d have to move my underwear and Scotty’s socks out of the way to watch MeerkatMansion on the only English TV channel we had. Scotty even tried to get crafty and use the oven as a quicker drying option until we nearly burned down a building that had survived two world wars and a NATO bombing.
I’m still not quite sure why there weren’t any dryers. Maybe it was because hanging your clothes up to dry, rather than putting them in the dryer, helped to maintain the quality of the clothes longer. Maybe it was a good way to conserve energy. Either way, I developed a new appreciation for a clothing routine. Never again did I wear a T-shirt for the morning then throw it in the dirty clothes to put on a different shirt for the afternoon and evening. Whatever I put on in the morning stayed on for the rest of the day. I think I increased my shoulder strength too from lugging those wet sacks around downtown Belgrade.